- A tooth belonging to Congolese Independence Hero Patrice Lumumba has been returned to his family
- The relic was given back by Belgian authorities 61 years since he was assassinated in an apparent process by the former colonial power to seek reconciliation
- When Lumumba was shot by a firing squad, his body was dismembered, however the officer overseeing the destruction kept the tooth as a souvenir
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Belgian authorities have returned a tooth that is believed to have come from murdered Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba.
The move is part of the ongoing process by the former colonial power to confront its bloody past and seek reconciliation.
Belgium is seeking reconciliation
According to The Guardian, the relic was given to the family after Belgium’s King Philippe expressed his “deepest regrets” in the manner his country ruled Congo.
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The case containing the gold-capped tooth was handed over during a private ceremony in Brussels held in the presence of Lumumba’s relatives.
When Lumumba was assassinated by a firing squad in, his body was buried in a shallow grave and then dug up and transported 200km away.
It was then buried again, exhumed, then dismembered before being dissolved with acid to ensure there was no grave for his people to create a pilgrimage site.
Luckily, the daughter of Belgian police commissioner Gerard Soete who was tasked with overseeing the destruction of Lumumba’s body happened to keep the tooth.
BBC records that Soete mentioned having a second tooth and two of Lumumba's fingers, but those are yet to be found.
Lumumba was a symbol of hope for Congo
Nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo hold the fallen statesman in high regard as he is the symbol of what the country could have become after independence.
It has, instead, suffered plunder and mismanagement through decades of dictatorship and loss of its vast mineral reserves.
After pushing for an end to colonialism, Lumumba became Congo's first prime minister in 1960.
He, however, became an enemy of both Belgium and the US after reaching out to the Soviet Union to help him do away with a secessionist movement in the mineral-rich Katanga region.
Congo government responsible for Lumumba's death
The same year, Mobutu Sese Seko staged a military coup and took over the country's reign, after which Lumumba was arrested and jailed.
His assassination in January 1961 paved the way for Mobutu to rule and rename the country Zaire, a name that stuck for decades until he died in 1997.
Although Lumumba’s killers were Congolese, there have been questions raised over the silent involvement of Belgium and the US due to his perceived communist ties.
An investigation into the murder by the Belgian parliament ruled that the government was “morally responsible.”
Belgium returns Lumumba tooth to family
In a related matter, Briefly News also reported Belgium on Monday handed over the last remains of slain Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba -- a tooth -- to his family, turning a page on a grim chapter in its colonial past. Chief prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw gave the relatives a small, bright blue box containing the tooth in a televised ceremony, and said legal action they had taken to receive the relic had delivered "justice".
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